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BORMIO, Italy (VN) — Just when Vincenzo Nibali’s star appeared to be fading, it sparked to life in the Giro d’Italia’s holy grounds.
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The Sicilian two-time Giro victor, leader of team Bahrain-Merida, attacked over the Stelvio Pass, descended like a missile to Mikel Landa (Sky) and shot by for the stage victory in the Bormio ski resort.
“I’m very happy to have won this spectacular stage,” Nibali said. “The only regret is that I didn’t lift my hands at the end because there wasn’t a chance, but it was a special day.”
The Giro stage win and time gains propelled him ahead from fourth at 3:40 minutes to third at 2:38.
This winter, Nibali left team Astana after a Tour de France stage win and Giro successes to start and lead the new Bahrain-Merida team sponsored by the small Persian Gulf island-state. Until today, Prince Nasser would have been disappointed with Nibali’s showing in his home tour.
“The Shark” appeared to be washed ashore. He sat 3:40 behind race leader Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) and lacked that same spark helped him to so many success. Some critics said that even his second Giro d’Italia victory last year may had come “easily” against less-experienced rivals Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) and Esteban Chaves (Orica-Scott).
He rebounded over the rest day in Bergamo, however. He showed to still have that same attacking instinct as soon as the Giro d’Italia reached its first high-mountain stage over the Stelvio Pass twice — once at 2,758 meters and the second via the Umbrail at 2,502 meters.
“I think it’s a different stage to what we have had up to now,” Nibali added. “This one was very long, many climbs, and not just one climb, where riders who can give it all on one climb can make a big difference, like they did on the Blockhaus or Oropa. I suffered on those.”
Nibali attacked on the Umbrail and used his descending expertise that he is often noted for to catch Sky’s Mikel Landa. Landa led through the curves in Bormio’s center and Nibali struck.
“It was all spontaneous for me, we didn’t talk at all about what we were going to do. At that point, the descent was very sinuous. Paolo Slongo [Bahrain-Merida coach and sports director] told me to take the last corner first, it wasn’t easy. I managed to take it tightly and move past him.”
Dumoulin’s diarrhea problems marred Nibali’s win, however. The group refused to wait for the race leader when he stopped at 35 kilometers to race to relieve himself and that provided the springboard for Nibali’s attack later.
“It was difficult to say if we should stop or not. It wasn’t a crash but a problem that was maybe linked to bad feeding on the descent or not being properly covered up on his way down. I can’t say,” Nibali said.
“I’m very straightforward. I never expect anybody to wait for me when I stopped. Many times, I’ve fallen or punctured and just set off again. I don’t know, maybe we could distort cycling and have a referee who stops the race in front and behind! I don’t know what to say. This is my opinion, even if many people might attacking me for saying this.”